Not the Right Time for a Third-Party Bid

Unity08 hopes to use the Web to spark interest in a third-party presidential candidate.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City has been rather emphatic that he is not running for president and thinks an Independent or Third Party nominee is destined to lose.

Bloomberg is right on both counts. In running, he would only mar his good record at City Hall if he struggled outside the two-party system. At the same time, an Independent faces many obstacles, even with a wealthy man like Bloomberg picking up the tab. (Just ask billionaire Texan Ross Perot.)

A loose organization called Unity08 is trying to muster interest in a third choice. Republican Doug Bailey and Democrat Jerry Rafshoon, both veterans of presidential campaigns, are leading the effort. While it is a sincere move to use the Internet to spark interest among those unhappy with the choices of the major parties, it has mountains to climb.

True, some polls show a number of voters are unhappy with President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress. Other surveys show voters have expressed a willingness to consider a third choice next year.

This has happened before, though not using the Internet as a power base. Perot in 1992 and 1996, John Anderson in 1980, and George Wallace ran while using the same argument. Only Wallace managed to win any electoral votes and only because he was using a racist appeal in a turbulent 1968.

Unity08 has reportedly drawn some attention from former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia. Nunn, an expert on military matters, has a fine record. But is he willing to make the long-shot bid?

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, is another possibility. Hagel, a decorated veteran of the conflict in Vietnam, has good credentials but has to face the same daunting task as Nunn.

A good guess is that both Nunn and Hagel, sensible and realistic, will back off. They should.

Bailey and Rafshoon think a political convention on the Internet to form a ticket and raise money would be formidable after the two parties have settled on their nominees.

In fact, voters may be less than thrilled with the choices they get from the major parties. It is not unusual. But they could be just as reluctant to go down a third-party or Independent path.